Poem of the Day - Archive

San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck is curating a Poem of the Day with San Francisco Public Library for every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check daily for new poetic offerings from assorted local poets.

Here is an archive of the previous Poems of the Day:

1/21/2021

10:33 OUTSIDE YOUR LOCAL PRECINCT
by Darius Simpson

 

the state got a single action trigger
for a tongue or the military got an armory
sense of humor or white house neckties

                  casually point to brown land on desktop
                  globes and say dance say decompose or else
                  or occupation is a sad song if the troops

                             march to a ceaseless tempo or if you say
                             solidarity three times in a dark bathroom
                             you wake up with a face full of closed

                   casket or in a white mouth the wrong word
                    is gun powder or on the right side of state
                    violence gun on the brain makes you

target practice gun in the heart makes
you headline-worthy gun in hand makes
you old news or my parents were god-

                    fearing gamblers which makes me
                    two shakes short of good citizenship
                    so don’t ask me if i voted before you

              ask about this knife between my shoulder
              blades or the puppet strings on the mayor’s
              cuff links or the curly pink tail on

the sheriff or bad jokes end in flat
lines and if you listen to the way tear
gas hisses you’ll hear pigs laughing.

 

1/20/2021

the knowns
by Raina Leon

 

today i feel time leaks from the pen
the dog has unrolled her pink tongue
saying laze with me a while

my hips ache from birthing six months ago
and no cushion and coil will sooth them
sometimes i think i should birth again

but on the right side to right the lopside
to sidle up with a swing that doesn’t pause
on stairs     i can tell you there is a green lighted owl

i charge each day so that my father
does not fall        i can tell you i put up a baby
gate as much for the child as for my father

as for me and i consider what white
metal has to say about saving us    i cannot tell you
if this is a whiteness to love or if it is my love

how my grip extends beyond my body in steel bars
i can tell you that i am fleshy and have accepted
the pillow of my body is a curl and not a buffer

for disaster        
i can tell you that i fall
and how i fall like the time in this pen

 

1/19/2021

PRIVILEGE 
by Mary Gayle Thomas

 

This beautiful planet we’re on amazes me constantly.
l walk in the open air, joyfully filling my lungs,
simply because I can.
Because I feel like it.
Simple acts of walking and looking
and my chest rising and falling
as air fills my lungs and then is released -
These are the ultimate feelings of being alive.

Walking in new areas offers new experiences.
I look at houses and gardens and dogs
Children play games and smile,
I remember my own childhood games.
I walk to enjoy the architecture of different buildings and
Wonder about street names I’ve never seen before.

Sometimes walking makes me so happy,
I have to run for a bit.
Just because I can.

These are no small blessings, and they aren’t lost on me.
Having the free time to walk,
being able to walk at all --
These are blessings indeed.

But having the freedom to walk in public places,
to walk in different neighborhoods,
That’s not a blessing.
That’s a privilege.
That’s my white privilege.

Because my muscles and blood and organs
Are wrapped in pale, white skin, 
I have the privilege to walk, anywhere, looking around.
To walk - or even run - anywhere
with no reason except that
I. Want. To.

I walk, or I run, with no expectation of being questioned,
No anticipation of being accused.
That’s my white privilege.

A privilege I didn’t earn. A privilege I accidentally fell into.
No one wonders why I’m wandering around
Because I have the privilege.

And because I have the privilege to do so,
The air continues to fill my lungs,
My chest continues to rise and fall,

And *I* can breathe.

1/18/2021

Don’t repeat your neighborhood to anyone
by Tongo Eisen-Martin

 

That’s my cousin eulogized now in literary history… wasn’t pretty… this effect on my eternal soul
 
I tried to cry on the side (face in a sink full of alcohol)
 
Fine flowers of struggle
               that color spectrum the cousin
                          who is dead if you brace yourself
 
It’s hard to write without my friend
 
No Malcolm positions on East Coast warfare
             My friend---in the audience with the earth’s coming mood
 
Mainland jazz
 
The organizing is all over me
Let me divine you the Lenox Ave. of the future…the river just keeps riding freights town to town
 
Violent revolution in this very year
             `
             Open your paper to us
 
Rulers of the night train
Your humble dishwashers who lived to hum the details
 
To look into the future like a gentleperson
Three fifths of a typewriter
 
Do some math with me here in the absence of confidence
             The luxuries of a paranoia that you can finish later
 
                                                                       My friend died yesterday
 
Like belated parenting, we haunt each other in quick bursts now
 
Sample the drug
Wrestle the angel
No depth of setting
 
Hiding behind the hordes because I’m in the train business
You don’t need a ticket for a winter that only happened here
 
                           (Behind this room is my mind/ashes runneth over
                           Throwing around this room is my mind/brim of an innocent soul)
 
Which dollar deserves my neck?
 
Thinking about you is like sharing a ghost with half of the city’s afterlife
Thinking about you centers us
 
I’m just a small man in a basement window chronicling material conditions
Boiling water next to a change in the course of poor people’s consciousness
 
I cannot impress you with the names of guns
 
We haunt each other with absolute pragmatism
With the truth of Afrikan transcendence 
 
Another city ends
 
We hear the fire out
“I never really did like the car they found me in”
                         Imagine what defines a creature
 
where remnants of concrete put none of the world down
except slabs of a dead-beat nationalism
or a bloodline making the news again

 
True, I have an absence of style
 
              Just a door step moving dead body to dead body

1/17/2021

San Francisco Has a New Poet Laureate
by Kim Shuck

 

Pick any street corner
Any
Bench any
Stoop
Any fourth star
In this city or over it
 Sit quietly
You will hear the water of time
Keys rattling
Heart and innovation
Ramaytush wonderings
War and colonization and patience and the mint that only grows on the south side of that mountain right there
You will hear the poetry of place
Popcicle sticks scratching on the curb
Clap songs and
Jump rope spells and
Chess moves
Love curses
Every night in some back room QR Hand reads the future and the past in autopsied words
The Babar poems
Bob Kaufman’s guerilla words shouted at the unsuspecting somewhere in North Beach
The skyline mutters poems that have been and poems to come
And if you stand in the Café La Boheme’s door too long
You might hear Alfoncito yelling what we will choose to call a poem
Old Wives Tales still hover faint along Valencia
You can listen to the purring of the various fogs
As they pad over Eureka and Noe peaks
Wolo’s paintings comment quietly on every new show in Kerouac alley
If your hearing is very good
Abrose’s dictionary runs on a loop in a certain bar
On a certain bar stool
And the faint laughter from Sam’s jokes will still grind Brett’s teeth
Prayers for the plague victims
In more languages than you can count
Mumble down Grant and twine with the poems of the Unbound Feet Three
There are songs of burying and unburying to be found all over the Richmond
Every corner
Every bench
Every headstone under the sand at Ocean Beach
Mary and Carol Lee and Paula talk story in classrooms at State, at tables in cafés turned to bars
John’s words rattle justice
Through the rusting bars of Alcatraz and the voices of those taken in Captain Jack’s War have made them into their own songs too
There is an eighth poet laureate of San Francisco
And with the title comes
More wealth in words
Than in all of the great libraries that have ever been

1/16/2021

I’m surprised but I’m not shocked so I’m just saying, ‘damn okay’
by Alexandra Naughton

 

a tiny thorn smoldering in my lower lip
an idea that I cannot piece together
no matter what self-hypnosis or
reckless methods I employ
an aspect a shadow behind a milky screen
a shape I can only stab at bluntly
writing and ruining the remnants
an intention misunderstood following and haunting
like a face in a passing vehicle I see from under busted bicycle
my own accident, my own creation, distracted by my own daydreaming
under handlebars twisted toward the sun like angry limbs
pulling myself onto sidewalk with all but the present missing
looking back in divination of a certain memory
recounting people met at parties; Myspace profiles visited
anywhere I might have seen this driver before
returning the gaze in what I think is a mutual recognition
watching the eyes pursue mine as the vehicle gets smaller
a feeling of recognition I will never be able to confirm
an idea that will never feel solid
a description made with timid limpfigured gestures
tainted in a probable daze of incongruent sentences

1/15/2021

Kiss The Wind
by Grace D’Anca   6.13.20

 

Kiss the wind without guilt.
It chills and pants at the back door
with wild tiger cats waiting for scraps.
Pop open the red umbrella and dance
in no-rain to percussion in your head
while another withers more and more.

Capture the essence of beauty in a cup
with a broken handle, spiderwebs
on the windowsill, though another
sees only snakes and petrified trash.

House your dreams in a hoosier
in a back room that looks on the cyclone
tree the troubled child climbs
no matter what voice calls to him.
Does he know his father will be murdered
by fire?

Imagine. Survive the embittered anima.
Jitter and jump on Saturday mornings
when the house is vacant. Slide the hallways
on slippery feet. Fling open doors. Dare
to be ebullient while the albatross flies.

Kiss the wind through battered red shutters
your mama rescued from a train. She always
saw possibility and muted her ears
to the wailing

Laugh out your belly button
so hard you spit
snort through your nose
unembarrassed.
Sometimes that’s all there is.

Praise the ocean, reject
mistaken memories
regrets that stop time.
Tiptoe and stomp in honor of living
inspite of moribundity.
Be kind,
and wish for wonder.

1/14/2021

And What Will You Admit
by Robert Pesich

 

when the zero hour in your name
demands that grief be accompanied
by solitude and a yielding
to a current that removes you
from what you call home to a shoreline
where nothing more can be done
but let the birds and breaking
waves speak through the amalgams
they create from the useless and abandoned
how to find the secret colors
present in a halftoned landscape
not unlike the royal purple
gleaming in the dusty eyes
of their black feathers
focused on origin and horizon
present in every direction.

 

1/13/2021

The Garden (For Mira and June)
by Tenuja Mehrotra Wakefield

 

If I build you a bower
of willow to spill over and swing upon
or a maze of high-walled stone
for hiding, and I show you how
earthworms shine in the sun when unearthed,
would you entwine like the jasmine vine?
If I help you steady the shovel, dig deeply
in the dirt so that it blooms under your
fingernails, or let you wander barefoot
over rocks, eat marigold petals, save
all the deadheads, sip sand, get stung,
would you roll each other down this hill forever?
If I left you alone in this suburban
silhouette of grass and flower bed,
would you cleave together through
drought and rain, wind and sun?
Would you eat from the same apple?

 

1/12/2021

“Late to the Party”
by Casey Gardiner

 

1.
Imagine you are at a high school party.
Liquor stains every corner of the room.
You are actually wearing a dress.
Boys that you have known for years
ask: your name, can they get you a drink,
Do you want to dance.
They wonder why
they didn’t see you here earlier.
You decline their offers, tell them
It was probably because
you were late to the party.
You kind of just want to go home.
This isn’t really your kind of party.
2.
You are at a college party
where everyone has the same haircut.
You do not understand why.
This party is for you.
It’s your party. You’re just
not convinced it’s your party.
There is a Tegan and Sarah song
playing off of someone’s record player.
Everyone knows the words.
You do not know the words.
You are shy. Talk to no one.
No one talks to you either.
You don’t make any new friends.
You assume that this is because
you were late to the party.
The one that’s supposed to be
For you.
3.
You are thirty now
a good ten years too old for this.
San Francisco night club,
You got the haircut and learned the song.
but everyone has a different haircut now.
They sing songs you do not know.
They use apps you do not have.
They may have tasted love, but
never been wounded by it, never
tripped walking through the door.
You show up early, to try
to make up for lost time.
You are still late to the party.
4.
You arrive and the party has ended.
Everyone has gone home together,
You stand alone, in your best clothes,
with the lights out, music off,
trying to find a reason to dance.
5.
You do not go to parties much anymore.
You sit at home, imagining
that you met a girl in college
who stayed the night and never left.

1/11/2021

Poem of the day
by Jeanne Lupton

 

with ease
the plum tree lets go
her yellow leaves
wind revealing bare bones
that so recently wore blooms

1/10/2021

Not A Woman Poem
by Monica Korde

 

When you forage for poppies
remember how fragile they are,
carry a basket and a bucket

of water. Take some newspapers
to keep them safe.
To protect them from

wind and sun. Leave an opening
for the scarlet heads, and
allow them to breathe

fresh air. The green stems
leave a lactiferous trail, and
crumbs of moist

earth. To keep them alive longer
burn the ends,
put the petioles

on fire. The flowers are
meek survivors. They will not speak
or, protest. They will live another day, and call it

life.

1/9/2021

Tribunal
by Josephine Torio

 

I can hear
The wringing of hands
whispered sighs

 

1/8/2021

At the World's End
by Jason Whitacre

 

I missed the train today.
     I missed the train to Tripoli in tattered clothes
     with a girl crafted of curtains
          on rails made from saltwater nails
               riding the soft glow of a night sky conductor.
     Roaring ahead towards a shift-switch sunrise.

I have missed trains before.
     Missed the melting of hot rails congealing with the coastline
          Creating a place where sun vaporizes plant life
               with holy fire.

I've always hated the heat in California.
     It sits inside your skin for days
          Spreading patience across vast valleys.
Such strenuous circumstance stress the need
     for cold & solitary places
          Far away
               Far away from the sun.

We can dance on exoplanets for days in chilled and exotic rain,
     We must exit alone. and can not by train.
          We must earn our ticket to bliss.
               Fight until we bleed with our hearts, not our fists,
                    and dive, head first into a dimming horizon.

We'll arrive on rails made from star light.
     Pretend the darkness is not the crippling night
          Gaining our pass to paradise through the Port of Parasites.
               Where we feed, ravenously, on paltry discontent.
Pushing forward to a quiet death
     Until we awaken
          Illuminated to the morning light.

There is no safe passage over the sea.
     No steel ship to ferry your dreams
          to the far away shores, deadly serene.

Our path to redemption has been held by haggard hands.
     Hanging loosely from train engines
          taught to destroy all that lies ahead.
                Barreling through walls
                     Brick after iron filled brick.
                          Inching across each massive land
                               Racing through each patch of barren space.

So space is where we're wandering.

Not what we're asking for.

So to the brim we shall fill each pore.
     Become burdensome stones
          Sinking through layers of subway systems.

Hurling ourselves as deep as we can
     Until we reach the bottom
          and meet each other there.

I haven't pulled in just yet, you see,

I missed the train today.

I'm sure I will again.

1/7/2021

Poem of the Day
by David Kirscher

 

Digest- The gist- Of this- Interment,
I watched the world choke life from what should flourish
The zeitgeist retro fitted until judged as worthless
But I guess that all depends on how you worship
Is the endless struggle even worth it?
To compromise your dream for the fabrics purpose
(Dude.....)
I'll promise you my shirt as the insurance
There's nothing left to purchase
The currency inflates to keep the poverty concurrent
Cutting edge medicine requires a verdict
Cadavers washed away in experimental currents
I'll just sleep all day
So could you close the curtains?
I've memorized the value of my verses
Asking warmer spirits to stretch their brittle courage
Children handed tech instead of nuristed
Eye contact now has to be encouraged
The programming has sunk into your circuits
Society is amassed through bread, wine & circus
Soldiers are abandoned after the contract on their service
Like the shedded scales off a serpent
Vetted husked handed off to nurses
This is the aftermath of the average skirmish
Reattach limbs and act like the memories of war
Wore no burnen,
School yard rubble still burning
Haunted handguns in the hands of rebels learn'n
That guerrilla tactics took away ah interview afforded an honest earn'en
Statistics are slanted towards the bias you're confirm'en
99% of the mazes outcome kills the vermin
But the Architect's advice for the mice is to remain determined
We're not moving forward just because the gears are turn'en
The fact that Trump got votes is still disturb'en
Unjust prejudice pointed towards a turban
While politics is about subtly discussing the value in a person?
Never trust the hate speech imbedded in a sermon
Are you the master of your reality or just a servant
The lines dividing black and white are burling that's for certain

1/6/2021

“Kissed Hands”
by Michael Stewart

 

My children kiss my hands
My lovers have kissed my hands
They've always a commented on their warmth
I have broken fingers
and bouts of neuropathy
The needle pricks and dangerous numbers
of my thickening blood
Yet, I'm a hospital legend
I debated the doctors of what
I won't do and tell them
What I can
I crashed in mid flight
last year and gashed
open my shin
Yesterday, I realized
it matches
my fathers bullet wound
as I said who's leg is that
the mirror betrays me
All the angles are deceptive
So I don't look
as often and Fall brings me
back to the overpass
where the road seemed to cold
and long
and a random person whom
remembered my laugh
offered a ride
Before I wished I was someone else.
I wish I was still me.

 

1/5/2021

“16th and Mission Suite”
by Kool Kat

 

I want to be
like the leprechaun with the pot of gold
you got me sold how Santa delivers his poem
and we have pon—and we have pon

with too many noggs it must be fun
coming up with new ideas for blogs
             like the frogs in the swamp
             hanging out with the chickens and crocs
                                    in the big Apple
drinking something helado; meaning “cold” in Spanish

I have to walk 20 city blocks
            f**k that shit I'm losing my mind
            looking at future clocks

Dancing rabbits
puffing habits, kool like Too $hort
smoking a Newport I met a Smurf
who knew how to surf
              gangster Kats are meowing for turf
Chilling on a rainbow
smoking blunts with Willy Wonka
you know he keeps that killa ganja
I went down the rabbit hole but couldn't find Alice
                                                       “oh alice!!!!”
 Now pass this magic blunt and let's enjoy some 16th and mission poetry and keep it krunk

 

1/4/2021

We are reposting this poem from June 24 2020, in honor of the passing of q.r. hand.
Rest in Power

6/24/2020
Poem of the Day
by q.r. hand

 

i am the equal opportunity thief
i steal from each moment i can
some triflin’ fact about which
no care can be construed by
anybody but myself and demon

i’m as easily lightfingered
with glances as galaxies and
spend at least a certain part of
every afternoon casing the joint
so to speak so as not to miss my chance

i’m not particular about precious stones
and works of art are worth only in conception
whose price is deceit
a sprite of a lad he what

i was drunk for work today
before i even got up
for that matter woke
if you want to call this awake

and because my as ifs are on scramble
i never know which lie it is i’m telling at the moment
that I tell it in

 

View q.r. hand's work in the Library catalog

Video: q.r. hand at the San Francisco Public Library

1/3/2021

“Let’s just take a second…”
by Tanisha Gupta

 

Where the fuck is the magic?
Did it drip down the side of your limp arms, down your legs into a puddle on the ground?
The rain washed it away,
alongside the garbage, into the sewage drains.
As it flooded down the dirty streets,
it touched loosely the vagrant and wild;
tapped their filthy arms, and crusty toes that stuck out from overworn socks,
filling them with illumination and wonder.
Strawberry eyes, overripened in the dazzling sun
staring vacant,
limp bodies, with racing minds
electric and enchanted.
As you sipped your morning latte, with the precarious
fleur-de-lys pattern, hand crafted, always,
for your delicate pleasure.
The wild came calling
but you missed the call,
because you were too busy
pissing out last night's champagne.

 

1/2/2021

I am waiting that everything you say
by Terry Adams

 

I am waiting that everything you say will be held against you in a court of law
I am waiting that everything you say will be repeated in the court of the hereafter.
I am waiting that everything you say was said before.
I am waiting that everything you say is the only way you touch.
I am waiting that everything you say is building your home
I am waiting that everything you say will not lie down in your casket
I am waiting that everything you say is solid as anger and invisible as the Pentagon.
I am waiting that everything you say is hoarse with voices of ancient fire and cried through the breath of the hunted
I am waiting that everything you say is spelled in the ink of need
I am waiting that everything you say begins the reconstruction of the mind
I am waiting that everything you say is the shape of music and the power of strawberries
I am waiting that everything you say lightens the burden of the future
anything you say should be complete in the time it takes
to give your cat an enema
the body is the nun of your lonely thoughts
the priest of our oldest wishes.
Your wireless minutes have exceeded their limits you have unused
icons on your desktop I am waiting that everything you say
your voice is a vote for the party of the unspeakable
your voice is a claim for the innocence of hell
I am waiting that everything you say will drag you by the nape of your neck
We are caretakers in fire-watch towers in a single forest,
We are tenders of medieval gardens,
We are silent at the oil cloth table light bulb vigil
high over sunflowers abandoned and bending
We are champagne wedding in earliest sun
we are Martin Luther at the celestial suggestion box
which face is yours at the Greyhound window — are you reflected
in the glass of night?
Are you the spark advancing along the beach
Are you slung across a saddle on the way to Kabul
Is yours the scream that will stop the clatter of machineguns
Are you electrocuted at the microphone
Your sentence will pardon the eyeless and open the ears that are buried in doors
You are an unlawful assembly
you are an unlawful assembly
The rock of the law is the sand around your feet
               Your description of the sunrise begins the healing of the world
               Your description of the spirit is the birth of the Spirit
                              Your question is the question the Universe has been waiting for
                              Your command tells the future to begin
you are shuffling a stack of grammar parts at a language fire
under the freeway
you are advancing the spark in the motor of breath
Shake your can of verbs onto the bar top
buy a round of soul for the vagrant children
Is there a lighted wick crackling along the base of your spine
Is there a lighted wick crackling in the base of your spine

1/1/2021

Journey (for Sheleigh)
by Jade Bradbury

 

When lichens start
overtaking stone,
the rock does not resist,
in fact submits, or doesn’t
care, preoccupied
with simply being there.
But lichen-time wears away
relentlessly and when
at last this blooming leveler
has done its reductive
deed, all fluidity,
a micro-landscape that travels
light all down the rivers
and into the sea, its mother—
she then rimmed with tiny
stars upon her moonlit
beaches.